How To Launch A Successful Job Search When You're Already Employed

Photographed by Nicolas Bloise.
With the unemployment rate down, especially among female job seekers, now may be a good time to look for new employment. For fresh grads particularly, working a day job to pay the rent while you look for the first gig to jumpstart your career is pretty common.
People who already have work may have a greater advantage since, unfortunately, the labor myth holds true: Economists from Columbia University and the Federal Reserve banks of Chicago and New York found that people who already have jobs tend to have an easier time getting new ones.
In light of these differences, looking for a job when you already have one seems relative cakewalk, until you consider other kinds of difficulties — namely, juggling regular work with pursuing new opportunities. Etiquette and maneuvering are definitely required to make this work successfully, without burning bridges on the side. Here are a few tips for those who are working a day job while looking for the dream.

1. Be Honest About Your Current Work Situation

People may have several reasons for wanting to keep mum about their current job: maybe they're nervous that a potential employer is connected to their manager in some way, or they don't want their current line of work to seem at odds with the direction they're trying to go in. Nonetheless, it's crucial to be transparent with prospective employers that you are currently working a day job — especially if it isn't listed on your résumé.
If you avoid being honest about why you always seem to be unavailable, even though your schedule seemed open at first glance, you risk seeming avoidant, shady, or just annoying. Simply say that you're currently working between X and Y hours on the side, but are available on Z dates and times. Once your interview is confirmed and you meet in person, you can give more context about your situation if you'd like.

2. Leave Openings In Your Schedule

Doing shift work (in a retail or restaurant job for example) can come with the perk of great tips and semi-flexible scheduling. At the same time, it's very common for managers in those industries to ask employees to take on last-minute shifts and work irregular hours.
If you have shift work, try keep at least two business days open in your schedule, or leave at least two hours free in the afternoon free, for interviews or meetings. You want to make scheduling an interview as easy as possible, and it's not on your interviewer to navigate the jigsaw puzzle that is your schedule.

3. Look For Weekend Work

Some unemployed workers may seek part-time jobs to earn money while they scour their industry of choice for full-time positions. If you can swing it, seek out jobs that ask you to work on the weekend, at least initially. The vast majority of employers will ask to schedule interviews on business days — Monday through Friday. As much as you may regret temporarily giving up your weekends, always being unavailable for an interview will be a bigger pain.

4. Hoard Your Vacation Days

Remote interviews over the phone or on video calls have been increasingly common, especially for preliminary screenings of applicants. But if you're looking for a job in a new location and you're a finalist in the process, you may be asked to meet with one or several executives for an in-person interview.
If you know you'll be ramping up your job search in the coming months, be discerning about how you use PTO and vacation days. It's one thing to take "a long lunch" locally with a potential employer, and another to need to skip town for an afternoon. Your current employer shouldn't badger you for reasons you're out of the office when it's time you've asked for and are entitled to but go beyond those allocated days and you may have to explain yourself.

5. Save Up For Interviews

On a related note, some recruiters will foot the bill for your travel and any accommodations, but others will reimburse those costs if you pay out of pocket first — or may not offer to pay for travel at all. If you still want to commit to interviews that require travel, make sure you aren't breaking the bank. As you plan for these interviews, try to save at least $100/month for travel. Costs will obviously vary depending on where you're going and how you plan to get there (train, bus, near a holiday?), but eating a packed lunch for a few weeks really can make a dent.

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